* Japanese drugmaker in better position to be active
* Follows refocusing of group on three growth areas
* Priorities are oncology, gastrointestinal, emerging markets
By Ben Hirschler
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Takeda Pharmaceutical , Japan’s largest drugmaker, is ready to look at doing deals now that it has refocused operations, its incoming chief executive said on Wednesday.
Christophe Weber, who will become the company’s first foreign boss when he is promoted from chief operating officer (COO) in June, said he is anxious to screen opportunities as the global pharmaceuticals sector goes through a record wave of deal-making.
“We don’t want to be passive and we don’t want to watch the train passing,” he told Reuters on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
As COO, Weber has overseen a reshaping of Takeda after the company’s desire to become a truly global player was exemplified by his recruitment from GlaxoSmithKline last April.
In the past nine months Weber has undertaken a major review of businesses at 230-year-old Takeda and has decided to concentrate on three key growth drivers — oncology, gastrointestinal (GI) medicine and emerging markets.
Clarifying those areas of focus was a prerequisite for looking at acquisition opportunities, Weber said.
“Now we are in a better position to be active externally, which we want. We have zero net debt at Takeda, so we have some room for manoeuvre.”
In the past Takeda has reached outside its domestic market with some large deals, such as the acquisition of U.S. biotech company Millennium and the purchase of Swiss drugmaker Nycomed to boost its footprint in emerging markets.
The Millennium deal helped to develop Takeda’s cancer drug operation into a $3 billion-a-year operation, while Nycomed has expanded it into a number of fast-growing markets.
“Organically, we are doing okay, but I wouldn’t mind doing a few deals,” Weber said. “Perhaps a deal would be small or perhaps big. It depends what is out there.”
India is one emerging market where Takeda is lacking heft and Weber said he would look at ways to expand there, in addition to eyeing opportunities in research-driven cancer and GI medicine.
“We have now established a presence there to understand the market better. It’s a difficult market, very competitive and relatively low-margin, but we cannot ignore India,” he said.
Weber has been touted as a potential candidate to take over the running of French drugmaker Sanofi after the ousting of Chris Viehbacher last October, but Weber said he was not interested despite being approached. (Editing by David Goodman)